“No one gives a shit about what you had for breakfast.”
That’s the first line of defense from all Twitter resisters. They immediately disregard the medium as a whole and reduce it down to a bunch of people pretentiously sharing useless tidbits about their daily lives. As a reformed Twitter resister myself, I know this mindset all too well.
It took me a long time to warm up to this 140 character phenomenon. After all, I already had an account on Myspace (which I no longer have), and then I joined Facebook too – what the hell did I need another time-sucking social network to maintain for?
I am by nature a non-conformist. Always have been. I’ve never been one to participate in something just because everyone else was doing it. Nor would I do things the way they’d always been done because that was the way they were done. Furthermore, the whole Twitter premise seemed like another fad that’d invariably be gone as soon as the next big thing came to light. With all of this in mind, combined with the perceived pointlessness of the application as a whole, I decided that I’d sit this one out.
That was about 15 months ago.
I’ve obviously come around to it. I eventually created an account and followed a handful of people I knew and made a few tweets here and there. But it wasn’t until I saw a presentation by social media expert Laura Bergells (@maniactive) at the Mindshare Seminar that I decided that Twitter is more than a passing blip on the radar and that maybe I should take it seriously.
I am not going to post a ’10 ways to use Twitter’ type of article. There’s enough of that already that a simple Google search will turn up. Here’s how to use Twitter as a tool for your business, with an element of entertainment to boot.
(Right now a lot of you are probably thinking to yourself something along the lines of ‘this clown only has 200 followers… what the hell makes him think he can teach me anything?‘)
Here’s the answer to that quite legitimate bit of apprehension: This is not a post on how to get a bunch of followers on Twitter. Again, there’s enough about that topic already posted on the web. This post is about how to enjoyably use the tool without making it feel like a complete waste of time.
Every social endeavor on the web – from Twitter and Facebook to Youtube to your blog and even instant messaging has one thing that universally applies: You have concentrate on other people and take the focus off of yourself.
With Twitter, the best way to be successful is to offer way more by way of value than simply trying to get the word out about what you want your followers to know. I personally look at the followers I have as people who’ve decided that they liked enough of what they know about me to care about what I have to say. This is paralleled by the number of people I currently follow, which is about 300. Are there more that I would like to follow? yes of course, but I don’t know them yet.
This is one of the reasons that I don’t have 2,000 or 5,000 or more followers – and that I don’t follow that many people, either. A lot of professional people on Twitter will follow you with hopes of reciprocity. There are tools available to identify which of the people you follow are also following you. I get alerts a couple of times every single day that someone who wouldn’t seem to have any interest to what I do is now following me on Twitter. When I don’t follow them back, they ‘unfollow’ me within a day or so. If you look around a little, you’ll see that a large number of the people with tons and tons of followers also are following a very similar amount. This reflects a desire to simply build a massive amount of followers without regard to who they are or how they can connect with them.
Your follower count does not reflect the size of your audience, or how important you are in the Twitter community. Of the 200 or so people that currently follow me, I can go through the list and identify who most of them are without even reading their bio. Would I be able to do with 10,000 random people that I followed just to keep them following me?
Furthermore, just because someone has 35,000 Twitter followers does not mean that they have access to 70,000 eyeballs. An estimated 80% of all Twitter accounts are dormant. Anyone with that many superficial followers is reaching a helluva lot less people than they think they are or claim to be.
Another skewing factor in the numbers game that has become the Twitter follower race is the fact that when a Tweet is posted, it is only on your follower’s screen until enough of the other people they follow have tweeted afterward to push it off the page. This can be anywhere from one minute or less to an hour. In other words, you have to hope your tweet coincides with the time they happen to be on the page. While there are tools like Tweetdeck that are developed to help people not miss as many tweets, even with a high follower count, it’s likely that one specific message tweeted a single time isn’t actually going to reach very many people.
Rather than viewing Twitter as an advertising tool, try to think of it as a means to make connections. If someone follows you out of the blue, and it seems that it was appropriate for them to do so and not just some self-serving hack trying to inflate his follower count, make contact. Send them a quick thank you and learn a bit about them by reading their bio. Ask them how they found you and how you can help them.
Coming next week: Part 2: How to Engage Your Twitter Followers.